'Is what we're doing cultural appropriation?'

On April 2nd 2018 Calvin Wong Tze Loon wrote a brilliant thread on Twitter in response to people contacting him to ask if what they are doing is cultural appropriation?'

He said it was okay to share it.
If you find it useful you can buy him a coffee here: https://ko-fi.com/ithayla.

'Is what we're doing cultural appropriation?'

There are four basic litmus tests for whether something is cultural appropriation rather than cultural exchange.

1)  Is there an imbalance of power between the cultures?
There's a reason making poutine (a dish originating from the Canadian province of Quebec) in America is not appropriating from Canadians while naming a sports team The Redskins is.

2)  Is the power flowing solely to the dominant culture? 
For example, an American opens a Vietnamese restaurant and doesn't hire any Vietnamese chefs, graphic designers, or architects in its construction.

3)  Is the cultural element being divorced from its original context? 
Think again of white people wearing Native American head dresses or Indian bindis as fashion statements.

4)  Would a person from the source culture be marginalized for participating in said culture? Cultures who eat from shared plates or eat sitting on the floor are considered weird and unhygienic - but in an upscale restaurant those are considered 'authentic' experiences.

Frequently Asked Questions:
'Does this mean you can't ever make games about cultures not your own?' 
A: Make any game you want, just be prepared to help power flow back to the culture you're borrowing from.  Hire a person from that culture to work on the game.  Consult people from that culture on usage.

'What makes a culture 'minority' vs 'dominant'? 
A: Context - which is ever-shifting depending on where you are and who you are with.

'Are there any themes I should straight up avoid?'
A: That is highly contextual to the cultures.  Ask people from the source cultures and do your research.

'Why so much negative focus on our differences, can't we all just be one big melting pot?' 
A: In a perfect world with no racism or xenophobia, where all are equal, cultural appropriation would not exist.  Sadly we do not yet live in this world.

'How would a well-intentioned individual address this when it seems dependent on beliefs held by society at large?' 
A: The way all social change ever happens: be aware of this behavior and correct it wherever you have the influence to do so.

Emma Jayne Park